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Apple to allow iPhone multitasking?

Apple to allow iPhone multitasking?

Rumour has it that Apple is looking to lift the restrictions on running background tasks on the iPhone and iPod Touch platforms.

The iPhone OS might just finally be getting true multitasking features with the rumour that Apple will be relaxing its ban on third-party background tasks.

Reported over on MacRumours, many are taking the lack of the announced “Push Notification” functionality in the latest firmware release for the company's popular touch phone as an indicator that the current restrictions on background tasks could be lifted in the near future.

Currently, Apple doesn't allow third party software to run as a background task – instead requiring each application to fully quit when a different task is launched. While this keeps memory clear and the OS ticking over nicely, the restriction does make the development of software such as instant messaging systems somewhat of a challenge. “Push Notification” was Apple's solution to this problem: a system by which an application could be alerted even if they are not currently active. Despite being announced back in June, the functionality has not yet made it into any officially released firmware for the iPhone or iPod Touch – with Steve Jobs claimed to have described things as “running a bit late.”

While it could well be that Apple is holding the functionality back from release until it's absolutely sure it's not going to cause any problems with the platform, there are hints that the company will – either instead of or to complement the push notification system – allow a small number of user selectable programs to run as background tasks, remaining active even when another app has focus. If this proves true, it opens the iPhone and iPod Touch platform up for some exciting new software developments – but could be restricted to just one or two applications at a time due to limited memory capacity in the hardware. This is likely something that Apple will be addressing in the next revision of the hardware, should the restriction on running tasks truly be lifted.

If the restrictions are lifted - and background tasks are finally allowed - can you think of a killer app that the platform is missing? Tempted to look into iPhone software development a bit more, or is the platform still to restrictive even with true multitasking? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

10 Comments

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wuyanxu 4th February 2009, 10:08 Quote
are they trying competing with Palm Pre? but then, it's a rumour, so i won't trust it.

in the mean time, if you want multi-tasking, just Jailbreak your iPhone and download use Cydia to get "Background". it's a neat code insertion app that allows all other app to go into suspend mode (when you sleep your phone while the app is running) by pressing Home button for 3 seconds.

i want Palringo (IM app), Last.fm, mBoxMail (Hotmail thing that works just like normal mail app, without paying Hotmail), AutoWiFi (so don't have to launch it every time i go to a hotspot) and iMob Online to be able to run in the background.

i don't think iPhone has that much memory though. SBsettings is a toggle and launcher built into the status bar, it can be pulled down by swiping the status bar. this shows free memory of only 20MB when ipod is opened. so where are all the opened app going to fit??
ch424 4th February 2009, 10:12 Quote
S60 devices can do real multitasking and they have 128MB too... then again, they only have half the display resolution.
Cupboard 4th February 2009, 10:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ch424
S60 devices can do real multitasking and they have 128MB too... then again, they only have half the display resolution.

On that note, all Windows Mobile devices can too, usually have more than 128MB RAM and some have double or more the resolution.

How much RAM does the iPod have then? I thought that they were reasonably powerful, with the current gen Touch being the most powerful, though I don't know where I got that idea from.

edit: iPhones have 412MHz ARM 11 processors with 128MB RAM, iPod touch first gen has 400MHz, second has 533MHz and both have 128MB RAM.
The N95 has 128MB RAM - in all versions other than the original one - with either a dual core or two (Wikipedia isn't clear) 332MHz ARM 11 processor
The N96 has dual 264MHz ARM 9 processors with 128MB RAM of which 90MB is free after the operating system is using it.
A Windows Mobile phone, the HTC Touch Pro, has a 528MHz ARM processor and 288MB RAM (I reckon that the OS uses about 100MB of this)
there we go.
wuyanxu 4th February 2009, 11:06 Quote
to realise multi-tasking, Apple needs to decrease the OS footprint. maximum free memory is only around 40MB, and with iPod open in the background, it goes down to 20MB, out of 128MB!
quack 4th February 2009, 12:09 Quote
It'd be nice if just Gmail had push.
badders 4th February 2009, 16:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuyanxu
(Hotmail thing that works just like normal mail app, without paying Hotmail)

Not sure if you're aware, but hotmail opened free pop3 access to all accounts a few weeks ago.
Fly 4th February 2009, 17:31 Quote
Shouldn't they be adding MMS support before getting the apps that they have already running in the background...
wuyanxu 4th February 2009, 17:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by badders
Not sure if you're aware, but hotmail opened free pop3 access to all accounts a few weeks ago.
oh? no, i didn't know. i already spent money on that MBox App. damn it
badders 4th February 2009, 18:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuyanxu
oh? no, i didn't know. i already spent money on that MBox App. damn it

You do need SSL for the incoming and TLS/SSL for outgoing - not sure whether you can do that on the iPhone.

Settings:
POP server: pop3.live.com (Port 995)
POP SSL required? Yes
User name: Your Windows Live ID, for example yourname@hotmail.com
Password: The password you usually use to sign in to Hotmail or Windows Live
SMTP server: smtp.live.com (Port 25)
Authentication required? Yes (this matches your POP username and password)
TLS/SSL required? Yes
puggsly 4th February 2009, 18:30 Quote
Seems more likely that Apple will just get the push component up and give access to those tasks they want to allow to run in the background. This gives them better over all control of the user experience. So, you may never be able to run XYZ audio stream in the background but you will be able to tell the Apple background audio task (ipod) to play content streamed from XYZ.

Apple is about user experience and protecting users from themselves.
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